Masha Gessen’s article is unusually affecting for me at a time when I feel enervated by tinyness in my own country. The article is a sensible and sensitive appreciation of conduct that betokens great — I would say towering — stature on the part of New Zealand’s leader. I’m having trouble not quoting more passages from it, but as usual I try to focus here on language and its power — “all that makes us us.”
Addressing the families of the victims, [Jacinda Ardern] said, “We cannot know your grief, but we can walk with you at every stage. We can and we will surround you with aroha, manaakitanga, and all that makes us us.” She used Maori words that mean kindness, compassion, generosity… It was the absence that was notable in Ardern’s speech: the absence of a rhetorical pivot from “us” to “them,” the enemy.
(Masha Gessen, “Jacinda Ardern Has Rewritten the Script for How a Nation Grieves After a Terrorist Attack,” The New Yorker, 3-22-19)
(c) 2019 JMN.